Fla. rail line lays out expansion plans for 2020 and beyond

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Brightline higher-speed rail will add three South Florida stations in 2020: Boca Raton, PortMiami and Aventura.
Brightline higher-speed rail will add three South Florida stations in 2020: Boca Raton, PortMiami and Aventura.

Soon to be known as Virgin Trains, the Brightline higher-speed rail line, which currently runs from West Palm Beach to Miami roundtrip, has announced sweeping expansion projects over the next several years, including stations in Boca Raton, PortMiami and Aventura, as well as talks with Walt Disney World in Orlando to bring a future station to the most-visited theme park destination in the world.

These expansion plans make it more likely that the eventual connection between South Florida and the Tampa Bay area, via Orlando, will come to fruition sooner rather than later.

On Dec. 11, the Boca Raton City Council approved a long-term land lease with Brightline for the construction of a parking garage and station near the city's downtown library. The station is expected to be operational by the end of 2020 and will connect to the current route along with the new stations planned for PortMiami and Aventura, both to also be completed by the end of 2020. Boca Raton mayor Scott Singer said in a statement that he believes the expansion of Brightline to his city will bolster the economic and tourism development in the coastal South Florida town.

News broke on Dec. 17 that Brightline and Disney have been in talks about a station located at or near Walt Disney World Resort that would connect to Orlando Airport. This station would be added as part of the route from Orlando to Tampa. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Michael Cegelis, Virgin Trains' executive vice president for infrastructure, told local road officials that the company's discussions with Disney are in a "rather advanced state."

In a statement released the same day, Ben Porritt, senior vice president for Virgin Trains USA, said, "A Disney station would offer the 126 million visitors and 21 million residents of Florida a car-free option to the state's most visited attraction and one of the world's greatest destinations."

The current expansion project from West Palm Beach to Orlando Airport is underway and is scheduled to be completed in 2022. Other station locations under consideration are the Space Coast area of Brevard County, the Treasure Coast region of Indian River County and St. Lucie and Martin Counties.

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